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Period c. 0 YP
Spoken in Southeastern Coast of Tuysáfa
Total speakers c. 60 thousand
Writing system none
Classification Dumic languages
Basic word order SOV
Morphology analytical/agglutinative
Alignment ERG-ABS
Created by brandrinn
Map of southeastern Tuysáfa, showing primary Potɑnsʉti areas, c. 0 YP


Potɑnsʉti is a Dumic language spoken near the southern coast of eastern Tuysáfa. It is mostly spoken in the hills and mountain valleys above the coast, and only in some places are Potɑnsʉti speakers the majority on the shore itself. This is the origin of the name, meaning "mountain language." The people's name for themselves is Tɛnto. They are scattered in small villages loosely organized into dozens of chiefdoms. They have no knowledge of writing, ferric metallurgy, market economies, standing armies, currency, or large scale urbanization. There is a limited form of social class, in that the chiefly families form an endogamous group separated from the rest of society by ritual importance and wealth. The chiefly caste is responsible for conducting large public religious rites and organizing public works projects, and extract a comfortable living from the farmers and the tiny group of specialized artisans.

Other Dumic languages include Wokatasuto, spoken on the Wohata coast, Trinesian, spoken on several offshore islands, and Kataputi, from the city states along the southeastern shore of the Great Bay.



labial dental alveolar velar glottal
voiceless p t s k
voiced β ɾ/l ɰ/j ɦ
nasals m n

After i, ɰ is realized as j, and is written as such in this article. ɾ is realized as l in coda position (see below), and is written as such in this article.


front central back
high i ʉ
mid-high o
mid-low ɛ
low a ɑ

The proximity of ɑ often causes a to move frontward, possibly as far as æ. The proximity of æ will in turn raise ɛ to e. However, none of this is indicated in writng.

Syllable Structure

All Potɑnsʉti syllables must begin with a consonant and contain exactly one vowel. There are no diphthongs, initial consonant clusters, or initial vowels. The only acceptable codas are l (phonemically ɾ but realized as l in coda position, and written as such in this article) and n, which is dental in word-final position, but assimilates to the point of articulation of the following consonant if it occurs within a word. This is not indicated in writing, except before labial consonants, in which case it is written m.

There is an alternation between p and β, between s and ɾ/l, and between k and ɰ/j that is triggered by the presence of coda consonants or certain vowels. If a root beginning with β, ɾ, or ɰ takes a prefix ending in ʉ, ɑ, ɛ, l, or n, they become p, s, or k, respectively. Similarly, if a suffix beginning with β, ɾ, or ɰ is added to a word ending in one of these phonemes, it will also trigger the change. This occurs at root boundaries within words as well. As a consequence, β, ɾ, and ɰ never occur after these phonemes in Australic, except in borrowings, onomatopoeia, and a few recently coined words.

Consonant clusters are only acceptably intervocally, and are limited to lp, lt, ls, lk, ln, lm, lɦ, mp, nt, ns, nk, nn, mm, nɦ.

Suprasegmental Features

Stress is not phonemic, and words have no pattern of stress aside from that imposed by the contours of prosody (although an entire word may be stressed to emphasize it). Pitch and volume both reduce slightly over the course of a prosodic unit until it is reset, usually at the boundary of a phrase or clause, after non-restrictive adjectives, and other situations.



Verbs are the core of a Potɑnsʉti clause, and can form a complete sentence by themselves. They always come at the end of a clause, excluding conjunctions, which may follow a verb. They inflect for aspect, mood, and valency with suffixes, but do not inflect for person, number, or tense. The perfective aspect is used for completed (or to be completed) actions, while imperfective is used for everything else. Most verbs have an inherent lexical aspect that complicates grammatical aspect. For example, some verbs inherently have no duration and cannot properly be imperfective. However, these verbs may be used with the imperfective ending to indicate a perfect or habitual aspect. The imperative mood is used for commands. The irrealis mood is used for hypotheticals, giving second hand information cautiously, and other situations in which the speaker is not confident that the action being described is real. The indicative mood is used for all other situations. The transitive valency is used when there is an agent and a patient in the clause, although either or both may be omitted. These are marked with the ergative and absolutive cases, respectively. The ergative and absolutive are used the same way even for verbs which have an experiencer instead of an agent, or a location instead of a patient, or other non-standard theta roles. When only one core noun phrase is present, i.e. a subject, it is always in the absolutive, and therefore will be parsed as a patient if it appears alone with a transitive verb. To indicate that it is the subject of an intransitive verb, the intransitive valency is used with a single absolutive subject. Although any noun phrases may be omitted, it is not grammatical to include an ergative noun phrase but not an absolutive. If only one noun phrase is present in the ergative/absolutive case, it is always parsed as absolutive. Therefore, if a speaker wishes to include an agent but omit a patient, a pronoun must be used to stand in for the absolutive. Some verbs are treated inherently as intransitive verbs, with no need for a suffix. These verbs may also be treated as transitive without any formal change. Clauses are negated by using tɑn before the verb.

transitive intransitive
imperfective, indicative ɦɑta
imperfective, imperative kɛn ɦɑta
imperfective, irrealis ɾi ɾiɦɑta
perfective, indicative βa βaɦɑta
perfective, imperative βakɛn βaɦɑta
perfective, irrealis βaɾi βaɾiɦɑta


tiβa ɰɛnkʉ
[bed] [jump]
He jumped (up and down) on the bed.

tiβa ɰɛnkʉpa
[bed] [jump][perfective]
He jumped (up) on(to) the bed.

tiβa ɰɛnkʉɦɑta
[bed] [jump][intransitive]
The bed was jumping!

tiβa tɑn ɰɛnkʉkɛn
[bed] [negative] [jump][imperative]
don't jump on the bed!

tiβa ɰɛnkʉpaɾi
[bed] [jump][perfective][irrealis]
Suppose he jumped on the bed.

Verbs can also act as adjectives, in which case the verb precedes the target noun followed by ki. This is grammatically identical to a relative clause (see below).

kopɑ kijo
[tree] [yellow]
The tree is yellow.

kijoki kopɑ
[yellow] [tree]
The yellow tree.

Verbs can also act as postpositions without any marking. This is grammatically identical to an adverbial clause (see below).

piki ɦʉsa
[bread] [enjoy]
He enjoys some bread.

piki ɦʉsa ...
[bread] [enjoy]
Enjoying some bread(, he ...).

In addition to compounding, which is common and highly productive in Potɑnsʉti, there are derivational suffixes that go between the root and the grammatical suffixes mentioned above. A brief list of the most common deverbal suffixes follows.

Verb > Noun

  • ɦa : "-er" (intransitive subject or transitive patient)
  • ɦiɾa : "-er" (transitive agent)
  • kɛn : instrument
  • pa : location
  • nɛta : result
  • noɰo : reason, goal

Verb > Verb

  • timi : inceptive
  • mʉmpi : cessative
  • sa : intensive, habitual
  • ɦa : various uses
  • ɾʉ : resulting state


ɰijɛɦa ɰijɛtimi
[sing][subject] [sing][begin]
The singer began to sing.

ɾatɑnoɰoɦɛ βatama kɑkɛsakɛn
[go][goal] [run][intensive][imperative]
Rocket toward your destination!

Another thing which may complicate derivation is the fact that inherently verbal roots may become inherently nominal, and vice versa. This process is not productive, but several cases exist where a root may take verbal suffixes even though it is canonically a noun, and vice versa.

There is no copula in the present tense. Nouns which are equated are simply juxtaposed. However, when aspectual or modal distinctions need to be indicated, the copula ɦi is used.


Nouns inflect for number and case with suffixes. Absolutive/ergative is unmarked and used for the agent and patient of transitive sentences, and the subject of intransitive sentences. The genitive indicates possession or association, and is the object of postpositions. The dative indicates target, recipient, or beneficiary. The instrumental indicates means or other adverbial meanings. The locative indicates location. Absolutive and ergative are usually distinguished by word order, with the ergative coming early in the clause, and the absolutive coming immediately before the verb. This can be subverted by adding ɦa to the beginning of a clause, which indicates that the absolutive will appear before the ergative. If there is only one unmarked noun phrase in a clause, it is always absolutive. Plural is exactly what it sounds like, but body parts use a different plural marker: ta.

abs/erg genitive dative instrumental locative
singular ɦɛ ɾa kɛn ta
plural mo moɦɛ moɾa mokɛn mota

Pronouns are grammatically no different from other nouns, with the exception that they decline for singular, dual, and plural. The pronouns take the same case endings as any other noun. They are also identical in form to the possessive prefixes. Alienable possession is indicated by pronouns in the genitive case. However, inalienable possession is indicated with possessive prefixes. They are normally optional, but they are mandatory for body parts and kinship terms.

1st, incl 1st, excl 2nd 3rd, masc 3rd, fem demonstrative interrogative
singular ti ti ma tʉn si ɾɑ
dual tita kota mata kɑta tʉnta sita ɾɑta
plural timo komo mamo kɑmo tʉmmo simo ɾɑmo

The demonstrative pronoun/prefix is used whenever the gender of a noun is not known or considered unimportant, or for unpossessed things, and has no inherent implied distance. The interrogative pronoun/prefix is used when missing information is being sought by the listener.

Postpositions form a small, closed class of words that must follow the genitive form of a noun (or pronoun).

  • βatama : toward, before, until
  • βataɾi : away from, after, since
  • ɦomima : into, through
  • ɦomil : out of, through
  • βakɛ : under, about
  • ɾapɑnta : near, alongside, with (commitative), in addition to

As with verbs, compounding is a very common, productive form of derivation for nouns. In addition, there are derivational suffixes that go between the root and any grammatical suffixes. A brief list follows.

Noun > Noun

  • pini : something related to X
  • βo : augmentative, honorific

Noun > Verb

  • kɑti : to make X
  • mil : to be X
  • ɦo : to have X, X exists


Conjunctions serve to connect phrases or clauses. There are two nominal conjunctions, βʉ (and) and pi (or). Verbal conjunctions are a little more complicated. They always come at the very end of the clause they modify, and form natural pairs, like because/therefore. Both of these can be used in the same sentence grammatically, but it is not necessary to use both.

  • βʉna : since, because (often used alone at the end of a sentence to add emphasis)
  • tal : so, therefore
  • ɾopi : although, despite (often used alone at the end of a sentence to soften it)
  • pɑn : but, however (often used alone at the end of a sentence to indicate unexpectedness)
  • mʉmma : and, and then

When used with irrealis verbs, βʉna is equivalent to "if."


soβʉ ɾatɑpa βʉna sinʉɦo tal
[bank] [go][perfective] [because] [lice][exist] [therefore]
Because we went to the river bank, I have lice.

kʉta ɾopi
[die] [although]
She's dying (but...).

Nested Clauses

Relative clauses are formed by adding ki to the main verb of the relative clause, after all other suffixes have been added. The relative clause precedes the noun phrase it modifies. The noun being modified also has a theta role in the relative clause, but it is usually omitted (this is the same as English: the word "dog" in "Susan likes the dog" is omitted when it becomes a relative clause: "That's the dog that Susan likes"). In some cases, especially if the modified noun plays a non-core role in the relative clause, the demonstrative pronoun si can be used.

Adverbial clauses are completely unmarked. They are placed at any point in a sentence before the verb they modify. A related category is subordinate clauses, in which a clause takes the role of a noun phrase within a larger clause. These are formed by taking an adverbial clause (i.e. an unmarked clause) and adding the word kɑta. This noun acts just like any other, including taking case and number markings.


βiɦi ɦapɛki ɰaɾʉ
[water] [drink][relative] [crow]
The crow that drinks water ("crow" is omitted from the relative clause).

siɾa ɾʉn masa soɦɛki ɰaɾʉ
[demons][dative] [man] [food] [give][relative] [crow]
The crow that the man gave food to ("crow" goes with the dative pronoun in the relative clause).

toto pɑki tʉti
[bad] [bow] [use]
He uses a bow badly. -or- Using a bow badly(, he...).

kipɑn nʉnna kɑta ɦitakaβa
[dirt] [eat] [subordinate] [make][perfective]
He made him eat dirt (kɑta, and therefore the whole subordinate clause, fills the absolutive role).

Questions and Exclamations

Yes/no questions are formed by adding a rising intonation to the end of a sentence, possibly with a prompt like tokoɰo? ("right?"). They may be answered in the affirmative with simil, and the negative with kimi.

More substantive questions are formed by replacing the missing information with ɾɑ. This may function as a standalone word, or a possessive/demonstrative prefix.


moko nʉnna tokoɰo?
[fruit] [eat] [right]
Are you eating fruit?

ɾɑsolsa moko nʉnna?
[what][time][dative] [fruit] [eat]
When are you eating fruit?

Exclamatory statements may be emphasized by adding βʉna (see above). Vocative exclamations may be formed by adding ɦo to the beginning.


1 : kaɦa

2 : miki

3 : piɾa

4 : ɦata

5 : piji

6 : sima

7 : tato

8 : kopʉ

9 : nʉnti

10 : kaɰɑ

11 : kaɰɑ βʉ kaɦa

20 : mikikaɰɑ

100 : tiki

Numbers do not fit into any existing part of speech. Ordinal numbers precede the noun they modify (after any relative clauses/adjectives), while cardinal numbers follow it, but still come before postpositions. In both cases, numbers are entirely unmarked. The words poso ("several"), mal ("few"), and kɛpɛ ("none") behave the same way as numbers, grammatically.


tipɛmo tato
Seven mice.

tato tipɛ
The seventh mouse.

tipɛmoɦɛ poso βakɛ
Concerning many mice.

Cultural Lexicon

All words are given without number, possession, aspect, or any other grammatical affixes, even if they would not appear in actual usage without them. Unless otherwise specified, the word in parentheses matches the English word in part of speech (with the adjectives being intransitive verbs).

There are five seasons: spring (mamʉ), early summer (miɦʉ), late summer (ɾɑntɑn), autumn (ɾapi), and winter (sɛnka). The early summer shares its name with the rains that make agriculture possible, while the late summer shares its name with the hurricane. The Tɛnto revere both of these natural forces, and hope to gain the favor of both to reach a successful harvest (miniɾʉ). Other important features of nature are streams (soβʉ), stones (kaɾo), the sun (miɾa), the sky (paɰa), and the Earth (kipɑn). There are several important domesticated animals, such as pigs (pati), cows (sosina), sheep (kapo), and dogs (toɰi). They, as well as popular game animals like deer (ɰɑmma) and rabbit (kɑkɛɦa), provide meat, as well as eggs (toβɑ) and cheese (patɑn). Oxen and horses (tipɑ) also provide transportation and traction. The primary staple is wheat (masa), which is cooked (nopa) to make bread (piki) and porridge (makɑ). Other plants and animals include fruit (moko), trees (kopɑ), grass (paɾo), flowers (somɛ), insects (tɛnka), rodents (sako), birds (toβiɾa), turtles (pimaɾo), and the ferocious lion (ɾɛnpʉ). The mines yield salt (ɰini), as well as the metals needed to make bronze (ɰanaso) and gold (niɰaɦa) objects.

The Tɛnto worldview revolves around the binary distinction between the ordinary world (kaβi) and the spirit world (sopipa), which is also the home of ancestors (tʉnɦa) and gods (tipi). These two worlds may come into contact in certain people and places, resulting in individuals or locations with great magical power (sʉnka). Those with the greatest magical power are mystics (kiɾaβʉ) and chiefs (kɑtɑn), though even they have limited control over how the spirit world affects the ordinary world. Once a person dies (kʉta), they are given a burial designed to make them comfortable in the spirit world, so that they may bestow blessings upon their descendants, and the living (koɾaɦa) in general. Among common burial items are jewelry, cloth (poki), furniture, and tools. Time (sol) is divided into the past (tamo), present (nɛnti), and future (ɰisi) (note: these are verbs). Publicly, the whole community will participate in the planting and harvest sacrifices (natɛ) in the public circle (ɰol). Privately, there are personal prayers (sʉti) which can be said alone or in the presence of a mystic, especially to ward off illness (ɰil). Dead bodies, a person who has killed (kɑnsi) someone, menstruating women, and other things having to do with death are thought to be ritually polluted (ɦaka). The animals (katɑn) are also revered, as they often have an unseen connection to the spirit world.

The most important kin are the immediate family, especially the father (taɦa) and mother (mɑnɦa), or less formally dad (tata) and mom (mɑmmɑn). A person's older brothers (pɛnka) and older sisters (nʉnti) have seniority within the household, while the younger brothers and sisters (ɦimiɦa) are less senior. A young boy (motʉ) will live in his father's house after marriage, even as a grown man (ɾʉn), though only the eldest son will inherent the bulk of his father's estate. A young girl (kil) will live in her father's house, until she is a marriageable woman (ɾansa), gets married, and moves into her husband's house. The household shares its wealth, while most economic exchanges outside the household take place in the form of gift-giving (soɦɛ), which creates countless reciprocal bonds of obligation throughout the village (maɾiɾo). Most people are farmers (miniɦiɾa), though some are artisans and craftsmen (ɰɑtiɦiɾa), not to mention idle elites. They live in houses (βɑmpo) containing an average of about seven people per household (siɦɑn). They use hoes (notoɦo) to work the fields (tapapa) and axes (kɑni) to clear the forests, sleep in hay-filled beds (tiβa), eat (nʉnna) from low tables (pono) using their hands or a spoon, and drink (ɦapɛ) water (βiɦi) or alcohol (mapɑ). For recreation they might sing (ɰijɛ) or dance (pɑkɑn), but as always the most popular activity is to have sex with (ɦʉsa) someone. They wear tunics (komɛ) tied with a belt (kɑsa), trousers (kaɾɑ) over their legs (kasi), and leather shoes (moni). Important body parts include arms (βatɑ), nose (toɰʉ), ear (mata), eye (βɛti), and hands (poɰa). Everyone hates (nɑta) and shuns (kʉno) the foolish man (ɦoβi) or the disgusting woman (sʉki), but they love (nɛnki) or admire (kɑsa) the courageous man (ɰopʉn) or the graceful woman (toβiɾa).

People might go (ɾatɑ), run (kɑkɛ), jump (ɰɛnkʉ), or swim (nɛnkɑ) to get around, while animals might fly (sipɛ). Humans distinguish themselves by thinking (pil), speaking (sɑti) and changing their environment by making (ɰɑti) things happen. Visual perception is divided into two verbs, perception done by the perceiver (noɦo), and perception done by the perceived (sɛni), similar in meaning to “watch” and “see,” respectively. Audio perception is also divided along these lines, perception by the perceiver (taso), and by the perceived (nɑmpa), loosely matching “listen” and “hear.” Objects can be red (kiɦi), blue (kʉnsi), green (ɰɛtɑn), or yellow (kijo), as well as white (maɦi) and black (toɰɑta). They can be big (kaɦa) or small (ɦaɰi), thick (ɦɛsi) or thin (tako), round (ɰɛsɛ) or flat (piɦi), long (nɑka) or short (soɰi). They can be hot (mɛti) or cold (kisa), clean (miɾɛ), or dirty (βil). People can also be happy (sɛta) or depressed (kaɰana) or angry (ɾaβɑ). They can be beautiful (ɦoko) or ugly (kɑto).

Sample Text

The chief and the mouse

mosoɰɑki kɑtɑn tɑn mɛmpaɦoki βɑmpoɦɛ ɦomima tɑntaβa mʉmma ɰimiɾʉnɛtaɾa kʉtaβaɾi tal ɦʉkosaβa.
A famous chief was put in a house with no openings, and abandoned so that he might die of starvation.

βɛtɑ kipɑnta maɰo kɑtɑn ɦaɰiki tipɛ βɑmpoɦɛ ɦomil kɑkɛ kɑta sɛni
Sitting gloomily on the ground, the chief saw a little mouse running around the house.

ɦa “sitipɛ nʉnna βʉna tɑn ɰimiɾʉ” kɑta kɑtɑn sɑti kɑtakɑ mini
“I will eat this mouse to keep from starving” said the chief, as he seized his knife.

simil ɾopi ɦa “ɾɑɾɑ tipɛ kɑnsiβa tal ɰisi ti kʉtaβaɾi βʉna” kɑta sɑti kɑtɑn takɑ sapiβa
But then, saying “Even if I kill the mouse, I will still die,” he put away his knife.

talta tipɛ “ɦo sʉnkaɦoki kɑtɑn ti nitiβa βʉna ma nitiβa” kɑta sɑtiβa
Surpsingly, the mouse said “Great chief! Because you have spared me, I will spare you.”

tipɛ ɦaɰiki mɛmpaɦɛ ɦomima ɾatɑpa mʉmma masa βʉ moko miniki tipɛmoɦɛ mikikaɰɑ piɾakaɰɑ ɾapɑnta kɛmpa
The mouse went into a small hole, and came back with twenty or thirty mice, carrying grains and fruit.

kikaɦɛ piji ɦomima masa soɦɛ mʉmma sima kikata sopani βɑmpo ɾaɦɛpa
They fed him for five days, and on the sixth day the chief's captors opened the hut.

kɑtɑn pɑsɛ koɾaɾʉ βʉna talta tal
They were astonished that the chief was alive and healthy.

sikɑtɑn sʉnkaɦoki sʉtiɦo! tɑn nʉnna tɑn ɦapɛ ɾopi koɾa tɛkʉ kijɑ!” kɑta sɑtiβa
“This chief has a powerful will! He can live without eating or drinking!” they said.